We’ve already seen the renditions of NBA Top Shot and Topps MLB digital trading cards, and NFL NFTs are most definitely on the way.
For those that may not know about NFTs (non-fungible tokens) yet, they are a digital collectible asset that fluctuates in value over time. Not all that different than a traditional sports card, yet unique in that they capture video highlights instead of a still picture. Effectively, we’re talking about NFL digital trading cards.
Each NFT is assigned it’s own serial number so that no two collectibles are the exact same. The replay or highlight itself can be duplicated, but there will never be two #004 cards of the same exact player highlight, if that makes sense. You can own the same iconic play as others, but no two individuals will ever hold the same serial number of said card.
With the NFL season around the corner, the league has yet to announce any official plans for their digital card rollout. Yet, I have a pretty strong feeling they’ll have a solution before Week 1 kicks off.
There are about a million different ways the National Football League can ensure their digital collectibles stand out among their competitors. Here are five ideas that I think would give the NFL the most successful version of NFT digital sports cards we’ve seen yet.
1. Digital trading cards that incorporate Next Gen Stats
Since at least 2016, the NFL has utilized incredible technology called Next Gen Stats. These statistics track things such as how fast a ballcarrier runs, how quickly a defender gets a sack, and how far a ball is thrown, among many other remarkable measurables. These are just a few of the ways Next Gen Stats is changing the game for the better.
Imagine if fans had a chance to be reminded on-screen of just how fast DK Metcalf ran when chasing down Budda Baker to tackle him, each time they pulled up their collection of sports NFTs? Or being able to see the data for how tight of a window the QB had to make the game-winning throw.
Incorporating Next Gen Stats into NFL NFTs could be a great method to utilize technology in a way traditional cards could never dream of.
2. Digital trading cards that use on-field audio
One of my favorite examples of fans being able to hear on-field audio is this play from a few years ago involving Cam Newton and Clay Matthews Jr. We need more moments like this.
Despite it being more common for young QBs making the transition to the NFL, when Sam Darnold had his “seeing ghosts” moment, a big deal was made out of it. That viral clip could be captured into an NFL NFT as a bit of a folly.
Players would soon begin talking a lot more on the field (or less, in the case of Darnold), with the hopes that their pre-snap chatter could go viral. It may lead to some amazing foresight and also plenty of moments where fans see football players making high-profile mistakes on the field.
With all his post-game movie and TV show quotes, Baker Mayfield seems like the perfect fit to have a heyday. He should be mic’d up all season.
Maybe even an uncensored series of cards where players and coaches really let loose? Of course these NFTs would likely have to be limited to users of a certain age, but those who enjoy some colorful language would surely appreciate a behind the scenes cut. Jon Gruden could make a killing.
Speaking of coaches, what about incorporating coordinator reactions? Remember a few years ago when Bill Belichick was seen on the sidelines throwing his tablet in disgust? What happened there?
Perhaps cameras could capture pre-snap, mid-snap, and post-snap reactions of coaches. How they react to a call they made, a play a player made (or didn’t make), and how the play resulted. Pete Carroll in Super Bowl XLIX comes to mind. Sorry ‘Hawks fans.
If there’s one thing missing from NBA Topshot, it’s the lack of game audio. Not being able to hear the sounds of football while watching your digital collectibles just wouldn’t be the same.
3. NFL highlights individual efforts from nearly any play
Of course, it’s easy to appreciate a deep bomb to Tyreek Hill, but some of the less glamorous dirty work is just as mystifying.
Imagine watching franchise left tackles utilize their masterful footwork while protecting Patrick Mahomes’ blindside against the games’ best pass rushers such as Myles Garrett? Or deeper in the trenches with Aaron Donald showing true dominance as he breezes through a center or offensive guard?
For the finer points of the passing game, zoning in on a wide receiver vs. cornerback matchup as they mirror each other down the field jostling for positioning to make a play on the ball would be exciting to capture. Getting a hold of the All-22 film or something similar to show various views of the field would be a great way to show what defensive coverages QBs see as the play unfolds.
To give special teams some recognition, showing a gunner fight through traffic as he sprints downfield hoping to make an open field tackle on a punt return would be a great way to highlight lesser-known contributors on gameday.
Fullbacks and offensive linemen need love too, there’s no reason why Kyle Juszczyk and Quenton Nelson can’t have a digital collectible that is just as desirable as a touchdown throw or catch.
Popularizing some less glamorous positions could be a great way to inspire the next generation of Pat McAfees instead of everyone wanting to be a QB or running back. Let’s make it happen NFL.
4. Tie in physical cards with digital NFL NFT versions
To capitalize on both the booming physical sports card industry and digital NFT collectibles, perhaps the NFL should offer cards that when you land the physical version, you also receive a code to unlock a digital collectible of one of that athlete’s highlights.
It could be the perfect way to promote both movements at the same time. NFTs shouldn’t get in the way of old-school sports trading cards and with a program like that, collectors would be encouraged to get involved in multiple forms of collecting.
While there are several collectors who simply aren’t interested in a form of digital collection, there are plenty others who have hopped onto the NFT train despite having never bought a football card pack in their life. Bringing those cultures together would only help each industry. As we’ve seen, collecting sports cards isn’t going anywhere any time soon, they’re now becoming more popular than ever.
However fans choose to build their collection, they are both great for the game of football and both help cultivate more fans to be more passionate than ever about the sport they love.
5. NFL digital trading cards should capture history
Unclear if this is possible, but I have yet to see other sports capture and offer moments from years before their digital collectibles were invented.
Could you imagine being able to collect past moments from your favorite players? Being able to purchase individual remembrances from Barry Sanders, Randy Moss or Lawrence Taylor would bring in droves of fans from all corners of the world.
They could have a lot of fun by going back in time. From past Super Bowl performances, to post-game press conferences, the NFL is sitting on a gold mine of collectibles and their billions of fans would love to have another chance to be a part of history.
It could also be a great way to recognize the historic moments of the NFL’s past while helping provide former players with compensation and connecting more fans to the game. It’s a win-win.